Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Google Homepage's Female Gatekeeper Coolest Nerd on the Block

This is a guest post written by Holly McCarthy, who writes on the subject of the best online university. She invites your feedback at hollymccarthy12 at gmail dot com.

Marissa Mayer is the woman in charge of Google's homepage. She gets the final say for how the site looks and feels and how it functions. No small feat considering the ubiquity of both the company and the search engine that is now a verb! She was the 20th hire the company made in 1999 and was its first female engineer.

(Image from here.)

Recent rumours of her departure were both false and unsettling to her employer.

Mayer has become of a celebrity in the geek world. She can be seen frequently on television and has appeared in countless newspaper and magazine articles. One of the really cool things about Mayer is she refuses to take the “poverty is noble” mindset that so many (even the very rich) in Silicon Valley adopt.

She attends lavish parties, spends like a drunken sailor at charity auctions and lives atop the Four Seasons in San Francisco. This is not the humble start-up life but it does speak more to Google's corporate culture. The company takes risks and wins big. Mayer believes that as well.

At just 33, Mayer has carte blanch control over every new feature or design for Google's homepage, from the wording to the colour of a toolbar. She keeps some impressive company as well with full access to the Google founders. Her keen sense of style and design make her unique in the world of engineering and contribute greatly to the decisions she makes. She is also a billionaire.

Mayer's tenure at Google includes the introduction of more than 100 products and features, many of which are very successful including: Google News, Gmail and Image Search. She is a teacher and mentor to the ever-growing young staff at the world's largest start up and remains hands on with her teams. Mayer manages 200 product managers who supervise 3,000 engineers, or more than 10 percent of Google’s entire staff.

Though she is not arrogant, Mayer is not humble either and does not take issue to her privacy being invaded by the press or news outlets. They love to publish pictures of her and her fiancée and get the skinny on all their social activity. She also spends time online talking about herself and her likes and dislikes. She is a self-described athlete and has run multiple marathons.

Mayer is a great example of the success women can achieve in engineering and the unique perspective they can bring to this “man's world.”